Hospice care provides medical services, emotional support and various other resources to a patient who is in the last stages of a terminal illness. Hospice care also provides the patient's loved ones with the support they need to deal with the difficulties inherent in caring for a terminally ill patient. The primary goal of hospice care is to provide patients with the ability to die without pain and with dignity.
Reasons for Hospice Care
Hospice services are designed to provide continual, comprehensive and compassionate care to an individual suffering from the final stages of a disease that cannot be cured. Examples of such illnesses include advanced cancers, heart disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer's disease, and certain genetic or neurological disorders.
Hospice care can take place in a patient's home, a hospital setting or an accredited care facility. An experienced hospice care team will oversee a patient's treatment and regularly assess his or her needs. Team members are available around the clock, as necessary, for care. Patients who receive hospice care can be of any age, although it is most common for older adults.
Hospice care focuses on caring for, not curing, a patient, using a team approach. Hospice care teams usually include doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, physical or occupational therapists, psychologists, trained volunteers and spiritual advisers. These team members coordinate an individualized plan, and work together to provide comprehensive care for patient. Family members are also involved in the caregiving, and often work alongside these professionals to help address the patient's needs.
Hospice Care Services
Hospice care services can vary, depending on the precise needs and wishes of the patient. Usually, hospice care services consist of the following:
- Basic medical care (controlling pain and symptoms)
- Counseling and social support services
- Volunteer support (meal preparation, errands, caregiver respite)
- Coaching services for at-home care
- Grief support services for survivors
Grief support services may also be available for survivors.
Candidates for Hospice Care
Eligible candidates for hospice care are those who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease. These patients typically have a life expectancy of 6 months or fewer if the condition continues to progress. In many cases, these patients have been admitted multiple times to emergency rooms within the past year, and have worsening symptoms that are having significant impact on the quality of their lives. Patients may also opt for hospice care if they have decided to stop receiving treatment. Patients can undergo hospice care in hospitals, care facilities or their own homes.
In some cases, the patient may live longer than the prognosis. If the patient lives longer than 6 months, hospice care can continue after recertification by a member of the medical staff. For a patient who experiences a marked improvement, a discharge from hospice will take place. The patient will be allowed, however, to return to hospice if it becomes necessary.
Benefits of Hospice Care
Hospice care offers patients many benefits, including reducing their anxiety levels, and helping them achieve some degree of acceptance of what is to come. Although hospice care cannot provide a cure for a terminal illness, it can improve the patient's current quality of life so that she or he can enjoy the time left with friends and family. The focus is on maximizing comfort so that the patient can experience a natural, pain-free and dignified death. In some cases, hospice care may actually help prolong the patient's life.
Hospice care also provides benefits to family members who have been struggling to care for the patient. Hospice team members help loved ones manage the patient's needs, in addition to offering them emotional support to cope with the illness and prepare for the eventual death of the patient.